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Message sent is that citizens should not be able to monitor the public actions of officials they employ

"If you don't give me your ID, then you're going to jail."

That's what a California cop, Officer Gabriel "Gabe" Lira, tells a man who is videotaping a routine traffic stop.  For Daniel J. Saulmon who lives in Hawethorne, a suburb of Los Angeles west of Compton, he was simply doing his citizens duty.  After all, his taxes help fund the Hawethorne Police Department, so why shouldn't he be allowed to record video of police in public on the job, in order to ensure that they do not abuse their citizen-entrusted power?

I. Show Some ID, Bud

Unfortunately, the Hawethorne Police Department's police officers didn't feel they owed the taxpayer anything.

Instead they arrest him (as the tape clearly shows) for failing to produce ID.  The only problem?  There is no law in California banning recording of on-duty cops and there is no law that requires Californians to produce papers to cops.  And in states where there are such laws, the requirement is that the individual be suspected of committing a crime.

Initially the HPD tried to charge the citizen with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer -- an offense punishable for up to $1,000 USD in fines and a year in jail.  They also cited him for not having reflectors on his bike pedals (punishable with a fine of up to $250 USD).

Ultimately both charges were dropped.  Mr. Saulmon's video, ironically, offered vindication by showing the officer improperly demanded his identification. It also showed he was standing a good distance away from the investigation site, and hence was not obstructing.

The extra irony is that the HPD officers should definitely have known better than  to pick on Mr. Saulmon.  Keenly aware of his rights, he regularly records local arrests.  In 2005 he was arrested in a similar situation for eavesdropping/wiretapping.  The charges were eventually dropped, and the HPD paid him a settlement of $25,000 USD for the wrongful arrest.

Mr. Saulmon is likely to pursue a similar settlement from the department this time around.

He tells the blog Photography is not a crime, "They knew exactly who I was.  They always address me as ‘Mr. Saulmon'."

II. Justice for Some, But Not All

While the incident ended in vindication for the accused, other similar encounters across the country ended with little reprieve for the arrested videotaper.  That's because some jurisidictions have banned citizens from recording local cops.  The fight to overturn these verdicts may have been given a helping hand by the U.S. Attorney General, who penned a fiery response arguing that such arrests were unconstitutional.  U.S. Circuit Appeals courts have ruled such taping to be well within a citizen's rights.

Some police organizations are still fighting to push back the current federal mandate and instead making taping cops a federal crime.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, argues that officers should not have to be held accountable and should be free to arrest citizens who try to monitor their activity for wrongdoing.

Officer blocking camera
The Frateneral Order of Police says citizens should not be allowed to hold cops accountable when on the job in public. [Image Source: ACLU]

He comments, "They [police officers] need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be. We feel that anything that's going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he's being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life or some serious bodily harm."

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, agrees.  He has stated in previous comments that his organization "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars.

He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street."

Sources: YouTube, Photography is Not a Crime

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RE: all part of a pattern
By GotThumbs on 11/27/2012 1:25:59 PM , Rating: 0
I fully agree. That's why I believe we should have more stop-light cameras as well as cameras in public areas. Just think of the crimes (public attacks, car jacks, kidnappings, people running red lights) that could be seen/prosecuted. There is one stop light where I've seen one or two people run it each morning over the years.

But you can't forget that police can't do their job if they are having to deal with people buzzing around them like kids. Just wait till someone is filming a stop and the driver gets out and kills the dope filming in the process of trying to escape.

I fully understand many (at least 47% ;_>) of you will never get it. I'm not expecting you to see my point of view. Closed minds will always be closed to looking at a situaiton from both sides. Criminals (at all levels) will always see themselves as victims and not responsible for their position/situation in life. Hint: If you have never taken responsibility for your own actions....your who I'm talking about.

Best wishes on being you and surviving that lot in life.

RE: all part of a pattern
By ebakke on 11/27/2012 2:15:48 PM , Rating: 2
So, because I have a different opinion (which resulted from a different value judgement) I'm a closed-minded, selfish, irresponsible "victim"?

RE: all part of a pattern
By dark matter on 11/27/2012 4:48:25 PM , Rating: 3
What a pompous and arrogant statement.

Good grief, get over yourself.

RE: all part of a pattern
By RufusM on 11/28/2012 1:50:28 PM , Rating: 2
Generally speaking, he's right, in that people do not have a legal expectation of privacy in public. It is generally accepted that private citizens can reasonably monitor their own property, just like the government can reasonably monitor their own property and activity, such as cameras inside/outside government buildings. Now that doesn't mean the police have the right to install video cameras everywhere and electronically track citizens using facial recognition. US citizens have Constitutional protection against unreasonable search. Because of this is has been stuck down in many areas that government operated public cameras violate that Constitutional provision, but there are still many gray areas; it's not fully resolved legally in the US.

Stop light cameras/ticketing systems cross the line where a person is not able to confront their accuser since it is a device. There are many other arguments for this one, so it's off topic.

If people are buzzing around police and interfering with their duties, they are obstructing the officer which is already a crime in the US and the person can be punished for doing it. If someone is standing way back, not at all in the way, video recording an officer, they are not obstructing the officer. This is the problem. The laws banning otherwise lawful behavior are only applied when cameras are directed at the police.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Piiman on 12/1/2012 2:53:18 PM , Rating: 2
"I fully understand many (at least 47% ;_>) "

And what does that mean?
FYI part of the 47% which I'll assume you are speaking of are
1. Military
2. Retired people
3. People that work but get a refund instead of paying more tax.

So are you claiming these people are stupid because they either don't work any longer or don't make enough money or joined the military?

I know you lost the election Mitt but get over it and stop posting on blogs.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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